IS SOPE REPORT, January 1994:
A Look Back & A Look Forward, February 1999
In 1988, two library schools closed-Emory University and Vanderbilt University. Between 1989 and 1995, five more library schools, including the University of Chicago Library School, closed, lost, or chose not to seek renewal of their ALA accreditation. During this period many library schools in the U.S. and Canada were feeling vulnerable and threatened by cost-cutting and consolidation efforts at a number of academic institutions, and the UCLA Graduate School of Library & Information Science (GSLIS) was no exception.
In 1991, the UCLA GSLIS first offered a full four-credit course to its students titled "User Education/Bibliographic Instruction: Theory & Technique." The 1992 class was cancelled due to concerns over budget cuts and the tenuous existence of the library school. In fact, the UCLA GSLIS fought a difficult battle for its own survival in 1993 and was only able to continue its existence as a department of a merged Graduate School of Education & Information Studies.
In this climate of uncertainty, I proposed that the ACRL Instruction Section (then BIS), establish a library instruction certification program, similar to the Medical Library Association’s (MLA) certification program. The purpose of the program would have been to encourage library schools to offer instruction courses, and to encourage employers to value training in library instruction (see SOPE Report, Appendix A). The certification proposal received little support. However, the Section’s Executive Committee decided to form a Task Force on Strategic Options for Professional Education (SOPE) to look into the broader issue of professional education as it related to library instruction. The Introduction to the SOPE Final Report (January 1994) describes the charge and the process by which the Task Force conducted its work, including its diverse efforts to gain input on this issue from Section leadership and the IS membership at large.
The Executive Summary describes the Task Force’s primary findings, a reflection of this broad input, and recommends action to help implement three major changes, the first two of which relate directly to library school curriculum. Five years ago, the many IS members and leaders who voiced their opinions felt that library schools needed to offer a course in library instruction or include library instruction as a component of an existing course. In addition, they felt that library school faculty needed assistance in determining how to include instruction in existing courses and in how to develop separate instruction courses. Finally, they believed that few library school faculty seemed sufficiently interested in or knowledgeable enough about library instruction to teach it.
The 1993/94 IS Executive Board accepted the report and approved a number of its recommendations. In 1996/97, the SOPE recommendations were a cornerstone and guideline for my year as Chair of IS. We posited that librarians in all types of libraries and in all sorts of settings need to train and help others learn, and made great efforts to make contact with library schools, to offer support and encouragement regarding offering instruction courses, or offering instruction as a segment of existing courses. The massive response to a call for applications for the first Institute for Information Literacy’s Immersion Institute,* even at a cost of $995 plus transportation, indicates clearly that there is still a tremendous need for basic education in library instruction.
Schools whose mission is to educate librarians still need to offer courses in library instruction or devote portions of courses to library instruction. Instruction is more integral than ever to almost every job or enterprise undertaken by librarians. Librarians need background and training in learning theory, cognitive styles, instructional design, instructional methodologies, assessment and other important teaching/learning areas, to support their varied position requirements. Schools which educate librarians face numerous demands to offer courses which meet specialized needs. However, learning to teach and train cuts across all specializations, and now, more than ever, should be an integral part of the curriculum.
Electronic Services Coordinator & Instructional Services Coordinator
UCLA College Library
* Over 250 people applied for a total of 90 spaces, with two people applying for every slot in Track 1, initial basic training, and 4.4 people applying for each Track 2 slot, advanced training. See the IIL Web site for further information about the Institute for Information Literacy.